Thursday, January 31, 2008

The gazpacho of your dreams

Where it all went down: the kitchen in Marathon, FL.

My brother Clay is a rockstar in the kitchen, and over Christmas the whole family enjoyed the fruit of his labors. This the the best gazpacho I have ever had (I think I've had one, maybe two others, so my opinion is not very carefully researched, but still). It's from the Williams-Sonoma website, which has wonderful recipes for free!

Nota Bene: don't be a fool and seed the jalapeño with your thumb, it will burn indescribably for the rest of the day. Use a spoon, that's what they're there for. Also- don't go without the jicama. It's weird, but totally makes the dish.

Gazpacho Verde

Tomatillos stand in for the ripe red tomatoes that are the usual base for this cold summer soup from Spain. Toasted walnuts take the place of the bread that thickens the soup. Green tomatoes make an interesting substitute for the tomatillos. For a sweet flavor boost, roast 6 to 8 peeled garlic cloves along with the tomatillos and puree them with the other ingredients.


1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed

1 yellow onion, sliced

2 jalapeño chilies, halved and seeded

1/4 cup walnuts

1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 English (hothouse) cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves

2 Tbs. olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cayenne pepper, to taste

1 jicama, peeled and diced


Preheat an oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place the tomatillos, onion slices and jalapeños on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until lightly browned and softened, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on another ungreased baking sheet and toast until fragrant and just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Place the cooled vegetables and nuts in a blender or food processor along with the bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lime juice and parsley. Process until smooth. Transfer to a nonaluminum bowl and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Ladle into chilled bowls and garnish each serving with a spoonful of diced jicama. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Vegetarian for All Seasons, by Pamela Sheldon Johns (Time-Life Books, 1998).

more from eBay: the ugliest shoes I've ever seen

Women's New Winter Boots 9

...and this is why I love eBay:

Leather Capri Pants W/ Lightning Bolt Airbrush - bid on them (here).

Stop Loss


I recently saw the trailer for Stop Loss. My friend Jason is a counseling student at Covenant Seminary and is interested in specializing in men with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was in Iraq for around a year and a half. He accounts for many of the issues related to men as being a direct or indirect result of PTSD. I'm glad awareness is being raised, so that military people with it can get help.

"Regrets on Parting with my Old Dressing Gown"

Denis Diderot, a French philosopher, wrote a piece called "Regrets on Parting with my Old Dressing Gown" which, in turn, created the aphorism "the Diderot effect" - which is when you buy a new thing and suddenly everything else looks worse by comparison, which starts a spending binge.

Read "Regrets on Parting with my Old Dressing Gown" here.

The only reason I looked up Diderot in Wikipedia is because I'm struggling through 'The Brothers Karamazov' and he is mentioned quite a lot.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our new Hoosier set-up!

One is for cable (which we mysteriously get for free) and the other is for movies. If only one was for picture and the other for sound, we would really be authentic.
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Culture Matters

I'm reading this book called Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress
which was a recommendation from David Brooks in this article. It's awesome.

In my two classes with Prof. Gilles, Social Change and Trends and now Global Perspectives and Realities, we have talked about why certain countries "succeed" and why some "fail" through multiple examples. We read the book Collapse by Jared Diamond for the Social Change class, which was fascinating.

However, there's an issue here. I'm feeling very postmodern by saying this, but, who defines success? Where one ethnic group or country might be very industrious and have a strong economy, another ethnic group or country might have a strong value for the family and community. Which is better or more desirable (because, often, they tend to be mutually exclusive)?

Here's a paragraph from Culture Matters:

" is first necessary to define our terms. By the term "human progress" in the subtitle of this book we mean movement toward economic development and material well-being, social-economic equity, and political democracy. The term "culture," of course, has had multiple meanings in different disciplines and different contexts. It is often used to refer to the intellectual, musical, artistic, and literary products of a society, its "high culture." Anthropologists, perhaps most notably Clifford Geertz, have emphasized culture as "thick description" and used it to refer to the entire way of life of a society: its values, practices, symbols, institutions, and human relationships. In this book, however, we are interested in how culture affects societal development; if culture includes everything, it explains nothing. Hence we define culture in purely subjective terms as the values, attitudes, beliefs, orientation, and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in a society." (xv)

So, a culture, as used here, is the worldview, the zeitgeist, the what-makes-us-different-from-them.

Of course, some cultures can have more healthy traits than others and can love honesty, integrity, and charity more than other countries or groups. But most cultures tend to be a mixed bag. Is globalization (by the definition I learned from Thomas L. Friedman - free economies, free business trade - free, not necessarily fair) really the best thing for everyone? The guys in Culture Matters say yes, if it provides better health care and overall well-being for everyone. Of course, it is kind of undeniable that a group or country with the least deaths from preventable diseases wins. I don't know...

Monday, January 28, 2008

I want to read: 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan

"Oil underlines Pollan's story about agribusiness, but corn is its focus. American cattle fatten on corn. Corn also feeds poultry, pigs and sheep, even farmed fish. But that's just the beginning. In addition to dairy products from corn-fed cows and eggs from corn-fed chickens, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup make up key ingredients in prepared foods. High-fructose corn syrup sweetens everything from juice to toothpaste. Even the alcohol in beer is corn-based. Corn is in everything from frozen yogurt to ketchup, from mayonnaise and mustard to hot dogs and bologna, from salad dressings to vitamin pills. "Tell me what you eat," said the French gastronomist Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "and I will tell you what you are." We're corn."

- Bunny Crumpacker from the Washington Post about 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'

Also: King Corn - trailer

So, what's so bad about corn?

Do I need to pay taxes if I earned next to nothing this year?

The answers are here:,,id=96623,00.html

the minimum you need to earn to file your taxes (to the best of my knowledge) is $5,350

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nerd/Old Man Crush: Ira Glass

Ira Glass, host of NPR's 'This American Life' is one of the best story-tellers I've ever heard. He has a co-experiential compassion with the people he interviews. It's wonderful. I would just listen and have him tell stories to me all the time. Listen to some of his stuff (here).

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message "He is Dead",

Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policeman wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come of any good.

-Poem by W H Auden

My Aunt unexpectedly died this past week. My Uncle read this at her funeral.

I Heart NPR

A good story:
"Out of Iraq: The rise and fall of one man's occupation" - Harper's

Friday, January 25, 2008

Missouri absentee ballot:

Who Knew?: Kitty Genovese

I learn a lot from road trips with my parents. This is a new one from my Dad. The famous 'Bystander Effect' from the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964 is actually kind of not true. Actually, the first time I heard about Kitty Genovese was from Boondock Saints, the movie. The story goes like this: Kitty Genovese, a 28 year old, was stabbed to death in Queens in 1964, supposedly while 38 people looked on and no one called the police. This case has been in Psychology and Sociology textbooks as the 'Bystander Effect,' and everyone wondered why no one would call the police when they just witnessed a murder. Thanks to my Dad and Wikipedia, here's the full story:

While Genovese's neighbors were vilified by the article, "Thirty-Eight onlookers who did nothing" is a misleading conception. The article begins:
"For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens."
The lead is dramatic but factually inaccurate. None of the witnesses observed the attacks in their entirety. Because of the layout of the complex and the fact that the attacks took place in different locations, no witness saw the entire sequence. Most only heard portions of the incident without realizing its seriousness, a few saw only small portions of the initial assault, and no witnesses directly saw the final attack and attempted rape in an exterior hallway which resulted in Genovese's death.[1]
Nevertheless, media attention to the Genovese murder led to reform of the NYPD's telephone reporting system; the system in place at the time of the assault was often inefficient and directed individuals to the incorrect department. The melodramatic press coverage also led to serious investigation of the bystander effect by academic psychologists. In addition, some communities organized Neighborhood Watch programs and the equivalent for apartment buildings to aid people in distress.
In September 2007, the American Psychologist published an examination of the factual basis of coverage of the Kitty Genovese murder in psychology textbooks. The three authors concluded the story is parable more than fact, largely owing to inaccurate newspaper coverage at the time of the incident.[12] "The since-challenged story of the circumstances surrounding Genovese's death 'continues to inhabit introductory social psychology textbooks (and thus the minds of future social psychologists),' the trio of British university professors write in the September issue of American Psychologist. The result is a lack of research into similar cases, their article maintains".[13]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Missouri Poet Laureate: Walter Bargen

Woo! Missouri finally has a poet laureate (by the way, that's a really fun word to type - laureate), Walter Bargen (here's his pathetic website). Well, with Gov. Matt Blunt not seeking reelection, at least he left something for us to remember him by. He was so cute, too.

Press release announcing Walter Bargen as Missouri Poet Laureate.

Bargen's from Ashland, too, which is about 20 min. south of Columbia. I have fond memories of Ashland, both from Young Life and driving past it (the overpass signaling us to start praying for club or whatever we were going to in JC) and from when some friends and I went to a real live rodeo there. It was out of control. Definitely one of the the strangest cultural experience that I have ever had.

Here's some of his prose from his book "The Feast"

"This is what happens when he stands face to face with no, and no the true genius of the world. No, he won't sit on the potty, and so he sits wrapped in his mess for the rest of the day. No, he won't struggle with putting on his galoshes on a rainy morning, and so he walks to school barefoot, all the other kids laughing. No, he won't stand on the chair, lean among the flowers to kiss the face of someone who once loved to playfully cheat his at cards and torment him in other small delicious ways, then his frightened face is shoved up against death. No, he won't give the older boys his jacket, and after school is chased all the way home, barely staying ahead of the heavy swinging belt buckles. No, he won't eat his broccoli or spinach, or anything green that looks like the squashed insides of a caterpillar, and he falls asleep at the table, then falls out of the chair. No, he cannot say no, but he does. No, he won't to the barbarous city Nineveh, but instead heads for Tarshish, across a storm-riddled sea where he draws the short straw and is thrown overboard for God-only-knows-what-reason, and ends up living inside a great fish. Yes, no is the genius of the world."

Silly article on Bargen: "Poetry gets Wings".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Missourian and my roommate!

My roommate's (Rachel) first article at the Missourian! Woo!

Start of semester brings increase in people downtown

January 22, 2008 | 8:38 p.m. CST

read the rest (here)

wondering what that song is that is playing in the new Gatorade commercial? The one where the wood slats are flying down into place on the street? Well, I'll tell you. It's Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," although I think it was sampled sometime in some rap song. It sounds really familiar.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Department of Good Ideas

Team Aquaduct wins Innovate or Die Competition

Rice Guide

Ever wonder how to cook rice perfectly? I know I do. Well, here's the answer from the kind people at

  1. For every cup of rice, add 1 1/2 cups water.
  2. Bring the rice to boil, uncovered, at medium heat.
  3. When boiling, turn the heat down to medium low.
  4. Place the lid on the pot, keeping it tilted to allow steam to escape.
  5. When you can see holes or "craters" in the rice, put the lid on tight.
  6. Turn the heat to low.
  7. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  8. Fluff up rice and serve.
Now I can stop sucking at making rice! Woo!


My mom often gives group gifts, as in, giving each of us one thing. This Christmas, she gave all the ladies Chia Herbs. I was more than excited. What pleased me most were the charming directions, teaching me how to create a "mini-greenhouse" with sandwich bags over the clay pots and warning against "exposing the little buds to their new environment too quickly" when it becomes time to take off the plastic bags.

I feel like I have a relationship with these plants, and I haven't even eaten them yet.

And, yes, that is a Troy Bolton/Zac Efron sticker on my refrigerator.

something appropriate

"and the world's got me dizzy again
you'd think after 22 years I'd be used to the spin
and it only feels worse when I stay in one place
so I'm always pacing around or walking away
I keep drinking the ink from my pen
and I'm balancing history books up on my head
but it all boils down to one quotable phrase
"If you love something give it away""

- Bright Eyes, "Land-Locked Blues" (with Emmylou Harris!)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dang It

St. Louis just installed a couple video cameras to catch people running red lights, and one of them is right by the Loop - at Delmar and Skinker. Well, I was one of their first victims. Now, I wasn't running a red light, technically. I was just turning right on red and apparently didn't make a complete stop. They offer picture and video evidence on their website, and I can't get the video to load, but here are the photos. The fine is $100. Suck. I'm the red car, so you know.

This is the second ticket I've received this week. The first was on South Grand outside Dunaway Books (which, by the way, is not worth checking out - the website is way too generous) for not being inside the marked spot on the street. Gah. I don't want to drive any more.

My Dad is incredibly sweet and constantly defends me. He brought up the point that we could contest the ticket on the grounds that I was trying to get away from the shadester on the street at 12:30am. We'll see.

Dan Parris: Man About Town

My friend DP was in St. Louis for the past month on break from Biola and it was great seeing him. On a run to White Castle last night, he alerted me to a hidden shadier-side-of-St. Louis gem: Rizzo's. The one closest to where I live was closed (health-code infraction, no doubt) but I found another one about 20 min. away. Dan said that they have a chicken dish that is the best thing he's ever had ever. It involves a breading, white wine, and tender chicken. Sign me up.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"At her second American show, in September, at Joe's Pub, Nash projected a combination of nervousness and aplomb. A pale, button-faced redhead who wears what the British press calls 'granny dresses' - think of 'Little House on the Prairie' - she slumped at her piano, except when, at rare moments, she remembered that she shouldn't and sat up straight. She tore through her set with alarming force and speed. She enunciated precisely and didn't miss a note, no matter how hard or fast she hit the keys. (Watching her perform, a friend leaned over and whispered, 'This girl does not do drugs. Her brain sounds so pink.') Given time, Nash will probably start distinguishing between anger and peevishness, and figure out which of her terrible boyfriends deserves a song. Going easy on the Web probably wouldn't hurt."

-Sasha Frere-Jones "Full Exposure: Making it on MySpace" on Kate Nash.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Homeless World Cup

As I was Googling "social entrepreneurship" today, I came across a website talking about Mel Young, who started the Homeless World Cup. It's basically what it sounds like: a program that has homeless people start soccer teams and play each other internationally. Good idea. Kind of funny, though. Wikipedia article (here).

Montreal, again.

This photo is from lebonbonmulticolore's flikr site and illustrates why i want to go to Montreal. Check out those staircases!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Carla Bruni

Gosh, I love the high schoolers that I work with at my church so much that it hurts sometimes. Augh. Well soon enough, I'll be back here for good. I'm just waiting for my allure to wear off, when they stop listening to what I have to say because I'm not a novelty anymore, and I'm not just visiting.

The Krew room got flooded (again) this morning so we couldn't have sunday school and a couple of us met at starbucks instead. A bunch of old New York Timeses were scattered on the tables and I picked up the first one that wasn't about sports or politics. "The French President's Lover" the headline read, with a shot of Sarkozy being very cozy with a woman too beautiful for him. Carla Bruni, is that you? As in Carla Bruni, the one with the voice? Check out her album - especially the songs "Quelqu'un m'a dit," "Raphaël," and "Le toi du moi"...they'll take your breath away.

My favorite line from the article was: "Can Indian officials invent protocol to accommodate a First Sleepover Pal?"

word to look up: polyandry - a marriage or relationship with one woman and multiple males.

Song to download:

"your song" by kate walsh article on ms. walsh

Friday, January 11, 2008

Crochet me something.

I've always thought that Julie should guest blog on this thing, and probably Claire, too. They find the most interesting things online and show them to me. This one is from Julie, and it's just really odd.

She found it on a website, strangely enough, called that has all sorts of strange photographs and images from the web. There are just so many miscellaneous things online, some strange and wonderful. This crocheted TV dinner instantly recalled something from my memory of being at L'Abri. I remember staring at an article again and again about a UK artist who crocheted her own Farrari. Weird, I know. Here's a photo and article.

Ananova: "Student knits her own Farrari"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Learn the Arabic alphabet with Cat Stevens

Lily Allen - "Alfie"

Lily's brother Alfie threw her laptop out of a window for this song. Haha.

Articles & Fragments

  • the celebrities in Nigeria are priests and generals. odd. BBC News: "Nigeria's new celebrity class"
  • To read later: David Brooks' "The Segmented Society" and "Questions of Culture"
    • From "Questions of Culture":

      · "Economics, which assumes people are basically reasonable and respond straightforwardly to incentives, is no longer queen of the social sciences. The events of the past years have thrown us back to the murky realms of theology, sociology, anthropology and history. Even economists know this, and are migrating to more behaviorialist and cultural approaches. The fundamental change is that human beings now look less like self-interested individuals and more like socially embedded products of family and group. Alan Greenspan said that he once assumed that capitalism was "human nature." But after watching the collapse of the Russian economy, he had come to consider it "was not human nature at all, but culture.""

      • What I want to study: "It all amounts to this: Events have forced different questions on us. If the big contest of the 20th century was between planned and free market economies, the big questions of the next century will be understanding how cultures change and can be changed, how social and cultural capital can be nurtured and developed, how destructive cultural conflict can be turned to healthy cultural competition."
  • My love for Sasha Frere-Jones is growing and growing. His look at artists on MySpace: "Full Exposure: Making it on MySpace"
  • NYtimes on Facebook advertising: "The Evolution of Facebook's Beacon"
  • To read next: Rajan and Subramanian's report: "What Undermines Aid’s Impact on
  • New book on my wish list: Culture Matters: How Values shape human progress
    • "This collection of essays addresses a difficult question: Are some cultures better than others at creating freedom, prosperity, and justice? Although Culture Matters offers varying responses to this politically incorrect question, its editors, Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, as well as the bulk of its contributors, answer in some form of the affirmative."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

St. Louis Magazine

Every day since I can remember, I have driven by a Behavioral Health center that is connected to St. John's Mercy Hospital on the way to my house. I have always wondered about the building - what goes on, what it looks like inside, etc. Well, a couple days ago I finally got my chance. A friend of my mom's had a schizophrenic episode and was admitted. While she played her harp for her, I was reading/avoiding reading 'The Brothers Karamazov' and reading St. Louis Magazine instead. It's awesome. I had super-low expectations for it. I've never been a huge fan of the Riverfront Times, and the Post-Dispatch is near unreadable.

St. Louis Magazine is interesting, and makes St. Louis seem more respectable as a city. I'm thinking about getting a subscription.

On their website I saw an article about an interview they had with the guy who used to be CEO of the Metro here in town. I think it provides an interesting insight into exactly what is wrong with St. Louis and what is stunting its growth. Check it out (here).

"So what’s wrong with us? There are two kinds of cities in America. New York, Chicago, Boston—their infrastructure was in place long before the auto became dominant. When suburbanization came, they developed commuter railroads on top of rail systems. The Detroits and St. Louises got rid of their streetcars—and with that came the weakening of the urban core, as it started to depopulate."

Things to master in 2008:

I guess this is kind of like my new year's resolution list. But I'm not really resolving to do them, I just think it'd be sweet. High expectations ruin most things. Here we go:

1. Gain a firm grasp of the electoral process and my opinion of it.
2. Finish 'The Brothers Karamazov' and 'Middlemarch' - both intensely hard to maintain focus while reading them.
3. Buy a good MP3 player
4. master Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'
5. figure out Microsoft Money
6. master the stock market
7. figure out linguistics and its link to postmodernism
8. set up Carrie on a blind date
9. figure out a way to feed myself after May 17th
10. fall in love with St. Louis again

Friday, January 4, 2008

What Cameras Mean

My friend Dan is planning on making a documentary about the American perception of poverty in Africa. He's planning on interviewing many high-ranking officials and intellectuals in America and Africa and getting their perspective of what is really at the root of the issue of poverty. On his list are authors like Thomas L. Friedman and men like Desmond Tutu. When asked how he's going to get these interviews, he said plainly "You can do anything with a video camera."

This got me thinking about what a camera means in today's world. In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman talks about what seeing things through a camera lens does to our perception of things - versus learning about things through print.

In crime dramas, you always know the suspect is in trouble when they are taken into interrogation room and they remark suspiciously "There are no cameras in here."

To my friend Dan cameras represent power. People let him interview them - people who wouldn't let him otherwise - because the camera represents the possibility that whatever they say into the camera will go past Dan and be communicated to countless other people, to an audience of infinite number.

To the suspect being interrogated, cameras represent accountability. Whatever happens in that room will be seen by someone else - someone who might be able to give that information to someone who could help him if something goes wrong. In this situation, the camera provides a sense of comfort.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

89.1 FM, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

89.1 The Wood FM radio is the college station of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, which is about 20 minutes west of St. Louis county. I love this station in so many ways I cannot count them. The station is phenomenal. You can find a list of their recent music (here) and what is currently playing (here). They do not, to my deep regret, have radio streaming online. It is very sad.

It is like they are playing a much cooler version of the music on my computer. Ah. I love them.

One more reason to add to the list is that I heard a great song on the station two days ago and couldn't find the title on the website and couldn't find the song through lyrics search on Google. So I emailed The Wood and the next day a dude emailed me back with the song title. They rock. In the email I was almost inappropriate in my effusive praise.

Well, the song is called "Wrestle with God" by Wild Sweet Orange. You can listen to it (here).

Events, Field, and the Liberal Skew in Higher Education-Becker

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Quiet City

I'm excited about this movie. It looks beautiful. The dialogue all seems like something that I would say.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Kickin it Las Vegas style

I picked up this little treasure at the Salvation Army across the street from our hotel in Marathon, Florida. In case you were wondering, it's a shirt. And yes, I will be wearing it all the time.

Coldplay and Barcelona

Sorry, I couldn't resist the awkward 90s band photo. Ouch.

This is kind of old news in the music world, but new for me. I found out in the American Airlines' music magazine that Coldplay's new album (rumored to be called Prospekt) is being recorded (with the help of Brian Eno) in various churches around Barcelona. My brother Clay and his wife Liz live there, so it's extra cool. I love me some Coldplay.

Reading: The Golden Compass

There's not much else to do on family trips than read by the pool and reject invitations to get in the pool by my nieces and nephew. And get a little Sun-In crazy (I haven't been this blonde since Allie messed up my highlights two years ago and I had a solid spot of yellow on the top of my head). Anyways, I was really proud of myself for reading the 400-page The Golden Compass in like 4 days until I talked to Kara who packed away a 1,000-pager (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet) in about the same time. Whatever, she was an English major.

So, I read The Golden Compass because of the movie, of course. I haven't yet seen the movie, I was pissed at all the hubbub about Christians boycotting it (mostly on Facebook from what I've seen) and I will definitely see it. Also, I was intrigued because I had heard that it was the Atheists' response to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I wasn't going to check it out until multiple friends had read them (there's three in the series) and loved them. Also, Wampler (my campus ministry leader at Mizzou) loved it - or rather, loved the first one and thought they went downhill in quality for the last two.

The book reminded me a lot of Harry Potter in the style of writing and because it centered around one "chosen" child growing up not knowing who they really are and going on adventures and who will eventually save the world. As far as the Atheist undertones, the only clear way this came out was that none of the characters were completely honorable or completely dishonorable. In the beginning the Master of Jordan College (who had been taking care of Lyra - the main character - since she was little) tried to poison Lyra's Uncle Asriel (who's Lyra's only blood and very cool). What?? The Master must be evil, right? Well, no, not exactly. Later on it looks in on a conversation between the Master and his colleague and he did it only because he was afraid because of what Uncle Asriel was up to and thought it was the right thing to do. So do you hate him or not? Pretty much all of the characters are like this - in fact, I was a little annoyed by Lyra sometimes.

But having complicated characters is realistic, right? And also a sign of good writing, I think. However, it seemed like there was less of a possibility of there actually being a right answer, like the right thing to do. Everything was confusing. Overall, it was an interesting and entertaining book and kind of reminded me of The DaVinci Code in some ways, but I don't know why. Maybe because I felt like I had to finish it even after I got bored.